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Utah’s college students get better deals in tuition than the national average

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SALT LAKE CITY — The cost of a college education jumped 8.3 percent this year, twice the rate of inflation, according to a College Board study.

Still, Utah's tuition rates for its public colleges and universities continue to be well below the national average.

According to the recent study, four-year public colleges and universities saw the 8.3 percent average increase after the 2010-11 academic year. This was mainly influenced by tuition increases from colleges and universities in California. California enrolls about 10 percent of America's full-time, four-year public students.

The average annual tuition with fees in the U.S. is now at $8,244. The highest tuition in Utah, at the University of Utah, including fees, is at $6,274. The second highest is Utah State University at $5,150.

"We try to keep education costs low and make sure education is accessible to Utah students," said Utah System of Higher Education spokeswoman Holly Braithwaite.

Along with the rise in tuition, student debt has increased steeply as well. A decade ago, the average student in the U.S. walked away with about $15,000 in debt. That average has now grown to $25,000. Again, Utah students fared much better than the national average.

Utah boasts one of the lowest debt-to-degree ratios in the U.S. The average Utah student accumulates about $15,000 in debt.

The Obama administration recently announced a change to the way student debt will be handled. Under the Pay-as-You-Earn plan, college students will be able to lower their monthly loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary incomes, with the balance forgiven after 20 years. Currently students can cap their payments at 15 percent of discretionary income, with debt forgiven after 25 years.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com